Upon announcement, it was hard to fathom why Toy Story 4 was an important story for Pixar to tell. Leading up to its release, a lot of noise was not only made about the film’s troubled production but the fact that it was getting made in the first place. The first three films in the franchise create a nearly perfect trilogy, which makes this sequel tread on even more hallowed territory. Luckily for everyone involved, the film is far more effective than it has any right to be. Although Toy Story 4 isn’t entirely on the same level as its predecessors, it comes close.
Despite a seemingly impossible set of obstacles to overcome, first-time director Josh Cooley does an excellent job of helming the sequel. Similarly, writers Stephany Folsom and Andrew Stanton manage to craft an essential thematic journey for Buzz and Woody in particular. Even though the latter is given far more to do, both Tom Hanks and Tim Allen manage to provide solid vocal performances. And Annie Potts returns with a beautiful turn as a more confident and timely version of Bo Peep.
Technically speaking, Pixar has once again outdone themselves with Toy Story 4. The animation, cinematography, and production design are all incredibly detailed.
While the film creates several new memorable characters, there’s no doubt that Tony Hale’s Forky is easily the most fascinating and unforgettable. Forky’s mere existence alone opens up a whole new world of possibility for the franchise. The existential crisis that he goes through is perhaps the most real and relatable thing this movie has to offer. More importantly, it manages to make a strong statement about embracing change for the better.
Despite some reasonably heavy themes, the film is still wholly entertaining. For all the chatter leading up to its release, Toy Story 4 proves that you should never doubt Pixar’s storytelling ability. Even with a move as derivative-sounding as making the fourth entry in a nearly perfect franchise, the legendary animation company manages to make an essential sequel. Although it’s not nearly as effective as the other films in the franchise, it’s a worthwhile and enjoyable experience nevertheless.
Toy Story 4 arrives on UHD Blu-ray with a 4K presentation that is exceptional. Captured from a native 4K Digital Intermediate, this transfer preserves the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Simply put, the cinematography by Patrick Lin and Jean-Claude Kalache is already light-years ahead of anything that Pixar has done in the past. Lin and Kalache’s work receives a dazzling presentation on home video. The detail on this disc is ridiculous, offering insane levels of clarity to the textures, lighting, and environments. Similarly, fabrics, facial textures, and skin tones are sharply-rendered in this 4K transfer.
Although the film’s theatrically exhibition used a Dolby Vision color grade, this UHD version of the film contains an equally mighty HDR10 pass. The additional dynamic range improvements provided by the format are noticeable early on in the opening sequence. Colors are far deeper and more vividly realized, further expanding on the film’s already-saturated color spectrum. Contrast also sees a noticeable improvement on this disc, with intense highlights and rich black levels that are prominent throughout the film’s runtime. Luckily, there are no apparent encoding errors to be found. In other words, just about every aspect of this 4k disc is an improvement over the 1080p version.
The audio mix for the home video release of Toy Story 4 is presented on 4K UHD with a Dolby Atmos mix. While the accompanying Blu-ray contains a 7.1 soundtrack, the Atmos track naturally reverts to a 7.1 presentation. Although the volume of this mix is perfectly acceptable around reference levels, crank it up a few decibels for it to truly come alive. At these levels, surround elements are far more pronounced, with distinct channel placement and effective positioning. Similarly, the track offers a decent amount of low-end girth for a G-rated film.
The track’s environmental ambiance is sufficient, whereas overall activity is a highlight. Even though the dialogue is naturally assigned to the front channels, the track makes liberal use of spacious and natural placement throughout the runtime. Clarity is excellent, offering a superior overall level of immersion. Most importantly, Randy Newman’s effective score is also given its due using prime placement in this mix. While nowhere near reference quality, this is a reliable, surprisingly weighty audio mix. For what this mix lacks in depth, it ultimately makes up for in pure finesse.
The Special Features
The supplemental material in this home video release of Toy Story 4 is plentiful. Spread over two accompanying Blu-ray discs, the special features contained in this release nearly all feel worthwhile. If there’s one complaint, it’s that there should have been a little more attention paid to the actual production of the film itself. Otherwise, there’s enough varied material on this disc to please most fans of the franchise.
Bo Rebooted (6:21; 1080p): A quick featurette that looks at how Bo’s reimagining for this film.
Toy Stories (5:38; 1080p): Members of the cast and production crew share the importance of Toys in their lives, along with some of their favorite childhood toys.
Audio Commentary: Director Josh Cooley and producer Mark Nielsen provide a spiffy and entertaining commentary track for Toy Story 4. They cover the responsibility of living up to the greatness of the franchise, the story, characterization & themes, voice acting, and more. A bevy of technical details are also covered, including effects, digital cinematography & lighting, set design, Easter eggs. Overall, this is an entertaining and informative track.
Let’s Ride with Ally Maki (5:41; 1080p): Ally Maki, the voice of Giggle McDimples, takes viewers through the complicated voice recording process for Pixar along with Cooley. This amusing and creative featurette covers the entire process – from creating temporary scratch tracks all the way to the finished product.
Woody & Buzz (3:35; 1080p): A decent exploration of the duo’s relationship in the past, as well as how it has evolved in the fourth installment.
Anatomy of a Scene: Playground (9:31; 1080p): a fantastic extended featurette that dives into the nitty-gritty of the playground scene. Hosted by Sets Supervisors Thomas Jordan & Steve Karski, Character Tailoring Lead Mariana Galindo, and Story Artist Carrie Hobson, the quartet dissect some of the challenges behind crafting the scene.
Toy Views: Carnival Run (1:00; 1080p): A ground-level run-through of the carnival set as we follow the skunk-mobile.
Toy Views: View From The Roof (0:29; 1080p): A nice aerial angle that showcases the carnival from the roof of the antique store.
Toy Box (13:00; 1080p): A collection of short featurettes that showcase some of the new characters in Toy Story 4. Accompanied with b-roll footage of the recording process and interview footage, each covers various aspects of creating each character.
- Gabby Gabby and Her Gang
- Duke Caboom
- Ducky & Bunny
- Giggle McDimples
Deleted Scenes (28:00; 1080p): A hefty collection of deleted material from the production of Toy Story 4. Even though there are a couple of exciting scenes that might be interesting to see fully animated, nothing feels as essential as what’s in the final film – especially that atrocious original ending. It includes a general intro by Cooley, along with scene-specific intros tailored to the animatic footage.
- Scamming Playtime
- Bo Knows Hippos
- Desperate Toys
- Recruit Duke
- She’s the One
Trailers & Promos (1080p): An odd assortment of promotional materials used to promote the film’s theatrical release.
- Carnival Prizes (3:25)
- Booth – Global Teaser in Spanish(1:39)
- Playtime – Global Trailer in English(2:20)
- Freedom – Global Trailer in Russian(1:46)
- Pixar Pedigree – Exclusive for China(1:35)
Anatomy of a Scene: Prologue (1:21; 1080p): A similar featurette similar to the one above where the filmmakers discuss the creative methods used to bring the impressive opening scene to life.
Alternate Opening – Bonnie’s Playtime (7:41; 1080p): An intriguing alternate prologue that features Bonnie’s interpretation of playtime.
Although Toy Story 4 is far more of a light and fluffy experience than its immediate predecessor, it still manages to be a delightful story worth telling. While the picture on this 4K UHD disc is outstanding, the audio is slightly underwhelming. The special features on this release from Buena Vista Home Entertainment are robust, even if substantial making-of material is missing. As a result, this release from Buena Vista Home Entertainment comes Highly Recommended.